What should the Rangers do with Erik Gustafsson long-term?

New York Rangers defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) and Colorado Avalanche center Ross Colton (20) battle over the puck during the second period at Madison Square Garden
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Erik Gustafsson has given the New York Rangers valuable production in the 2023-24 NHL season thus far, but this may be the last the franchise gets with the 31-year-old veteran defenseman.

Several impending free agents leave the Rangers with tough upcoming decisions impacting Erik Gustafsson’s future with the team

Sam Henes of The Hockey Writers touched on the Rangers’ limited cap space and how that will threaten their ability to resign Gustaffson to a long-term deal, saying:

“Currently an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, his performance may have positioned him beyond the Rangers’ financial reach,” Henes mentioned while contextualizing the $15.3 million the Rangers will have at their disposal.

“Set to turn 32 in March, Gustafsson is likely seeking a contract that maximizes term and financial security, as this trip to free agency could potentially mark his last significant payday in professional hockey.”

The Rangers have benefitted from Gustafsson’s solid play as he seeks a new contract this summer

Gustafsson has produced 23 points in 49 games for the Rangers this year. Of his 19 assists, eight have come in power play situations. However, his numbers have calmed down in accordance with the Rangers’ down month of January.

Slated for unrestricted free agency later in 2024, Gustafsson is currently earning $825,000 off of the one-year deal he signed with the Rangers this past offseason. While he has earned an annual salary under seven figures for the last three seasons, the Rangers may need to up their next offer in order to retain him.

As Henes also noted, the Rangers will also have Kaapo Kakko, Braden Schneider, and Ryan Lindgren due for re-ups with the $15.3 million they’ll be working with. All three are earning roughly $6 million combined this season.

The Rangers are 31-16-3 and the No. 1 seed in the Metropolitan division. As legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, they’ll have to decide whether or not keeping Gustafsson beyond this year is worth it in the long haul.

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